x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Suicide attacker kills at least 17 in Afghan capital

Twelve civilians and at least five soldiers killed in the worst attack on foreign troops since September.

KABUL // A Taliban suicide car bomber attacked a Nato-led military convoy during rush hour in the Afghan capital today, killing 12 Afghan civilians and at least five foreign troops, officials said. A Taliban spokesman said they were responsible for the attack and had used a van packed with 750kg of explosives. It was the deadliest attack on foreign troops in the heavily-guarded capital since September last year when six Italian soldiers were killed in a car bomb.

The interior ministry said at least 12 Afghan civilians had been killed and 47 others were wounded. Most of the casualties were people waiting for a bus on the busy road near an army base, a government ministry and the parliament. One senior police officer said seven foreign troops ? five US and two Canadian ? had also been killed. Another source said five foreign troops had died.

The attack comes after the Taliban announced a spring offensive against the Afghan government, foreign forces and diplomats in Afghanistan, in response to Nato plans for an offensive on the group's southern stronghold of Kandahar. A spokesman for Nato-led forces would not confirm the toll but said a Nato convoy had been attacked in the blast and they had taken casualties. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, was holding a news conference at the time of the blast, following a trip to Washington where he met the US president, Barack Obama, to discuss strained ties between the two countries amid a rising insurgency and civilian casualties.

"A suicide bomber attacked Nato troops that inflicted casualties on both Nato and innocents civilians including women and schoolchildren," Mr Karzai said. "I condemn this attack on strongest terms and hope that Afghanistan one day gets rid of this." * Reuters